“Zack you are out of control! I swear if you walk out of that door, the next time you come back through it, you won’t find me here”, Imelda had warned her husband of three years but her words fell on deaf ears. A week after they clashed, she packed all her clothes, called up her sister, and asked her to come pick her and her son Zack Jr. He (Zack) left her no choice. He got into gambling, he started doing drugs, changed women like he did his shirts. He had all the money to do as he pleased or so he thought.
Imelda met Zack at a supermarket in Westlands. She had an issue with a product, canned beans, she had bought a day prior. She brought it back with the hope that one of the attendants would do something about it or atleast apologise to her. But shock on her. She got neither an apology for the poorly packaged product which she took note of shortly after she got home, nor was she given another one in exchange. Ofcourse she knew the latter was farfetched. No supermarket in Kenya does that. Unless they exchange a damaged item on the spot but you don’t take it back the following day and hope they do something about it.
When an apology didn’t come her way, she stormed into the manager’s office. Yes, this particular supermarket had an office. I know you only thought that banks were the only ones with offices for branch managers. This was not like the “Kinyuas Supermarket” or “Paradiso Supermarket” that don’t even give their attendants lunch break. You walk into such supermarkets and you wonder if you are watching a movie or are in dreamland because of how untidy the place is. Then the owner keeps staring at everyone who walks in suspiciously. The owner is the CCTV of the property. If you dare do anything fishy, a watchman in some shabby uniform will be given a heads up then wait for you outside with a whip ready to rough you up.
Imelda walked into the office unannounced, burning with fury, with the attendant she spoke to following right behind her attempting to stop her. She found a man standing by the desk on a phone call. As soon as their eyes met, he whispered, “let me call you back shortly.” Once he put the mobile phone on his desk that had a portrait of an old-looking man, he motioned the attendant to leave before she could apologise for the woman’s unannounced visit.
“Madam, how can I help you? Please have a seat”, Zack told Imelda.
“I am sorry for storming into your office like this. I had a complaint about an item I had bought yesterday but none of your attendants has cared to offer an apology to me. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands by reporting this directly to you. I assume you are in charge here?”
“I am so sorry about that. I will look into that personally and if it’s a problem from our end or the supplier, I will have the matter handled. I apologise for that. Let me get you that same product you had bought.”
“No. You don’t have to. I just wanted to give you guys feedback. That’s all. I have been shopping here for two years. It’s hard to find loyal customers, so you are welcome.”
Zack chuckled. Before they knew it, they had spent about fifteen minutes talking about Imelda’s experience with the supermarket, that incident aside. The two warmed up to each other. Imelda noticed the portrait on Zack’s desk and couldn’t help but ask who the man pictured was. Zack sat in silence before saying it was his old man who was now deceased. He missed his father. Zack felt that fifteen minutes was not enough time to chit-chat with Imelda and so, he asked for her digits and somehow hoped that there wasn’t any man who had swept her off her feet.
Two years before the demise of his father, Zack worked as a financial analyst at a company in Naivasha. One day, his father called his sons (Zack and his three brothers- John, James and Tim) to a family meeting at their father’s estate in Kiambu. As soon as they had devoured their lunch, and later desert, he broke the news to his sons.
“I was at the hospital a week ago and the doctors said I am now on borrowed time. So, I need you to take care of business. Zack, you may be the youngest but it’s time you helped your brothers in running the family’s business. They could use your financial expertise. I will not take a no for an answer.”
“Father, I think my brothers are doing a good job. Please let…”
“Zack!” his father roared, “you are not doing this for me. This is your inheritance. You all have equal shares in the business. Nothing will make me more proud than to see my sons advance the business I worked so hard to build over the years.”
“Can you all promise that you will keep the business running after am long gone? I can almost see death beckon me to join your mother.”
The family lawyer was present and advised the family on how best to go about running the countrywide chain of supermarkets that would soon be under the management of the four sons.
Fast forward… Zack returned to Naivasha and handed in his resignation and two months later, he joined his three brothers to run the business. The first year was great. Zack enjoyed travelling to different branches in different towns with John, his eldest brother who introduced him to the various team leaders. “This shouldn’t be hard”, he had thought to himself.
On the second year, he noticed something very weird. You know how you wake up with that gut feeling that something isn’t right? True to the word, before the end of a given day, something weird happens and you go like, “I knew it.”
There was an erroneous imbalance with the numbers. Zack’s trips to the various branches especially those in Nairobi became frequent. He wanted to get to the bottom of it all and he did. Months of investigating what was happening, he was shocked to unravel that his elder brothers- John and James were onto something fishy. They had taken loans, gigantic loans, from two banks but even more shocking, they had listed the family’s business as security. Zack’s jaw dropped. He was afraid, too afraid, he didn’t want to think of the repercussions if they failed to pay back the money, the aftermath would be ugly.
He called his younger brother Tim and told him what John and James had done. Should they confront them? This was not what their father had envisioned for them especially if they failed to pay back the huge loans (which they didn’t pay, atleast not fully). Then the banks would come after all of them. It was time to act and act fast.
“Tim, I say we sell our shares while we still can and then to hell with John and James”, Zack had tried to convince Tim.
“What will that make you? I say we confront them and get to the bottom of it. What are they even doing with such loans? If they had plans of opening another outlet, they would have informed the two of us. Don’t you think so?” Tim told him.
They summoned their elder brothers who denied the allegations. Their scheme was out in the open and they needed a Plan B, fast. Zack read their mischief and decided he wanted out. He sold his shares, and started his own business, a retail supermarket.
Three years later, the banks came calling. His brothers had not yet settled the loans and they risked being arrested. Zack’s business on the other hand, was growing. He had about three outlets under his name within Nairobi and he planned on opening up the fourth one. His troubled brothers came knocking at his door. He was their only hope out of the mess they were in.
That day Imelda walked into Zack’s office, he was on a call with John as he tried to see how best to help him out. Zack ensured that his supermarkets had a small office to host him whenever he stopped by to check how business was running. He and Imelda met for coffee dates after that incident at his office. They had alot in common and Zack needed a woman like Imelda, fearless, go-getter by his side. Six months of coffee dates, lunch dates, and dinner, led to them getting married and a son three years after.
Imelda had quit her job as a Human Resource (HR) assistant manager and joined her husband to run his business. His brothers on the other hand, were in a “borrow Peter to pay Paul” kind of situation. Whereas Zack assisted them where he could, his aid wasn’t enough to get them off the hook. Their late father’s business- their inheritance- couldn’t service the huge loans and one by one, the supermarkets started closing down. They could not pay suppliers let alone the workers. The banks came after their properties and the family business suffered a gruesome “death.”
Zack’s gut feeling to sell his shares was spot on. However, the more money he made, the more irresponsible he became. He started drinking, too much drinking. He got into drugs. He started sleeping out, too many times that he forgot how fast his son was growing.
Imelda was done talking to him. He was out of control. She didn’t want what had happened to Zack’s family business to happen to him too. She wanted to slap him out of his folly. He needed to be woke.
That morning Imelda’s sister came to pick her up, Zack was out on his drinking spree. You know you can never change a man who isn’t willing to change. What is change anyways if one doesn’t acknowledge they need it? Imelda had tried everything; therapy, pastors, his closest sober friends to salvage her husband, their marriage. Nothing worked. There was no point in trying if Zack wasn’t willing to get out of the mess he was in.
One morning at around 2 A.M. Imelda felt fear come over her. She couldn’t place a finger on what exactly was wrong, but deep down her heart, she knew something was not right. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep again. She kept tossing and turning but couldn’t sleep. Suddenly, she heard a loud bang on the door. She woke up scared and rushed to her sister’s bedroom who had woken up too.
“Were you expecting someone this late?” Imelda asked.
“Not at all. Who in the world would bang at my door this time of the night?”
“I think we should call the police.”
They both walked to the door with knives on their hands just in case. Suddenly, Imelda heard someone cry outside. By this time, her sister was just about to call the police but Imelda stopped her. She listened again and heard someone call her name, “Imelda… Babe… I’m sorry.” Was that who she thought it was?
She opened the door carefully not to wake up her son or alert the neighbours. Her sister tried to stop her but Imelda had opened the door and found a man seated at the steps of the apartment.
“Zack, what in God’s name are you doing here? You need to leave or we call the police. How did you even know where to find me after all this time?”
“I am not leaving here without you and our son. Please come back home. The one year has not been the same without you”, Zack though slightly drunk started sobbing like a child. He got on his knees and beseeched his wife to take him back. Imelda asked Zack to get in the house and sleep on the sofa then they would talk about everything in the morning.
Since they separated a year ago, Imelda, had tried her hands in business as she looked for a job. It had been a while since she worked for any company. Zack’s supermarket outlets had collapsed terribly as there was no one to be on top of things. He was back to zero. He was broke, too broke. He lived with a friend who was gracious enough to host him as he sorted himself out. He looked like a joke of a man. The only person he thought of was his wife Imelda. They had not divorced, just separated. So maybe she would take him back. He prayed to God she did. He was however ready for rejection. He didn’t expect Imelda would take him back after destroying the business that Imelda had transformed through her HR skills. The business, she had shelved her career for. He regretted what he had done, to her mostly. Imelda asked Zack to give her some time to think.
A month later, she had gone back to her husband. They moved to a smaller house. Zack went into rehab for a month. Imelda got a job with a company as a HR Consultant. Things seemed to be getting back to normal when suddenly, two of the women Zack had an affair with phoned Imelda. Each broke the news of being pregnant with Zack’s baby. Imelda confronted Zack. He admitted to the possibility of impregnating a woman. He didn’t know which of the women might have been pregnant as they were only one-night stands. Now regret became Zack’s middle name. How he’d got into that mess, he knew not. He regretted it all especially for hurting Imelda who once again, packed her belongings and left.